Earlier on, We reported the news of how popular Yoruba actor, Aremu Afolayan, took to his Instagram page to vent about how he was frustrated by some immigration officers at the airport which led his niece to miss her flight.
Barely a few days after, Nigerian film director, Kemi Adetiba also had a rather unsettling experience with some custom officers at the airport on her way back from Paris. According to the series of tweets she put up, they tried to extort money from her in the name of custom duties but gave up after she stood firm on her rights and refused to cave.
She wrote: “My flight from Paris was delayed for almost 6 hours yesterday. If I thought that was the worst my day could get, I was wrong. I got back into Lagos at about 2am and this is where a series of unfortunate events unfolded… Right there at MY country’s airport.
Going through immigration& picking my luggage was a relative breeze. As I approached customs, I knew all would not be well as I saw a lady’s eyes light up like I was a fowl approaching a den of hyenas. I was still a good distance away when she beckoned for my porter and I to pull aside.
Now I had only been gone a week (to give a KEYNOTE speech) and then took out a few days to rest before returning to Nigeria, so I didn’t do any shopping asides a bottle of perfume I had bought for a friend. Mildly irritated, I stepped aside and reached in my bag to get my passport and keys to my suitcase. Luckily I had bumped into a friend in Paris. We ended up hanging together and as luck would have it, he sat next to me on the plane. He was there with me.
She asked to open all the bags, but not finding anything, zeroed in the perfume gift and my small travel speakers. She asked I show her an invoice for the speakers. I told her I no longer had it, and asked her WHY as it was a personal item. By the way this lady’s name is “Ojo”
She then leads me to a counter where she pulls out a booklet (i’m assuming rules manual), she drops the manual and pulls another one (no difference) then opens a page, and without showing me what was inside goes, “you know we charge duty on items more than N50,000, right?” I said, duty on a personal/used item? She starts getting nervous.
She goes back to the perfume and asks I open it. That’s when my patience starts to wear thin and I FIRMLY told her I would NOT open the bottle of perfume as it was a gift. Luckily my friend with me was present at time of purchase, so he also decides to buy one for himself as well. As it was for personal use, he offers to open up the packaging of his own bottle for them to see. I apologize to him that he has to do this. Seeing she wasn’t winning there she goes back to my speaker..Demands an invoice for it. Friend reiterates that it is a personal USED belonging. She insists on an invoice, I insist she joking and she can call her supervisor. She starts getting nervous as she sees I’m ready to take this to the end and will not be shaken down for money.
She makes an uninspired call for “valuation:” but no one shows up. Of course..Another rues to rattle me. I ask for the guy handling valuation, someone now says “he’s praying”. How convenient. Seeing as I was ready to take this on she transfers me to another gentleman “Eni . O.”
He asks for the invoice for the speaker. My friend again points out that it is a personal item. Just the same way he shouldn’t ask for the invoice of my laptop, why is he asking for this one. I give him the speaker to inspect. He says something to another colleague which I mistake for him talking to me. I say, “i beg your pardon”, he RUDELY says “Madam I was not talking to you” like he was beneath speaking to me. A woman. He then turns to my friend to speak to him about MY speaker.
At this point, I lose it and get on my phone. Sensing something might be happening he asks my friend who I am calling? And why am I getting so worked up. My friend responds we’ve had a long flight, everyone is tired yet we get out to them chasing red herrings in a suitcase. My friend asks a valid question, “why didn’t you ask for the invoice of my laptop or my phone” man couldn’t answer. He obviously knows he’s been caught out but still dancing around not wanting to lose face. Ms Ojo has fled completely.
At this point, I interject again asking, “Just so I am CLEAR, what you are saying is that you insist on an invoice and charge duty on ANY item, regardless of if it is personal, or used?” I can see he is troubled by my need of clarity. He doesn’t answer. Just says again…”Madam I was not talking to you. I am talking to your friend.”
I reiterate AGAIN at this point that the item in issue has NOTHING to do with my friend. We didn’t travel together. It belongs to ME, yet he still insists on dealing with my friend on the matter instead? He doesn’t know how to answer. I make a mental note of his name and he catches me looking at his name tag. He fr*aks out asking why I am taking down his name. I respond that the reason they wear name tags at all is so they can be identified. Now he is really nervous.
He calls my friend aside and ask him why I am taking down his name. Their shake down ends 10 seconds later and they want us to go. If they had good intentions, why wrap it up as soon as you see me taking down your name.Asides from the attempt to shake us down for money without conscience, the fact that this gentleman refused to speak to ME about MY own property is absolutely disrespectful. Instead insisting to speak to the “man” in the group is a downright shame.The government really needs to do something about customs officers as you leave the airport. Not all custom officers are bad (I have met some very pleasant ones) but there are very bad eggs that use the power to shake weak people down for money.
I was only lucky because I was firm, I refused to be intimidated, I knew my rights and I was ready to act on them. They’re are thousands of people that walk through those doors that don’t and unfortunately fall for this intimidation scam.We all know this happens yet nothing is done about it. I was speaking to an expatriate just hours before in Paris and he was complaining about his treatment at Nigerian airports. At every single stop, they try to get money off him by cuddle or by force. Corruption has eaten…so deep into our core and it is an ABSOLUTE shame. We shouldn’t allow people use their offices or uniforms to “rob” or frustrate Nigerians or any other people. Our airport needs an entire overhaul. From the workers to the actual infrastructure.